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Walmart and The American Dream

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Walmart corporate is the largest private employer in the world, with a staggering 1% of the American workforce on its payroll. It’s hard to believe that just 60 years ago, the retail giant was nothing more than a lone hardware store in Arkansas. So, how did founder Sam Walton create 2.3 million jobs?

In 1945, at the age of 26 and with his military career behind him, Walton took over as manager of his first variety store. With the help of his father-in-law, he bought a franchised store, purchasing his second – a tiny department store down the street – in short order.  

Walton achieved phenomenal success as a retailer, growing his sales volume from $80,000 to $225,000 before moving to a bigger premises in a neighboring town. No longer a franchisee, he bought an existing store and leased the unit next to it. The store opened in 1950 and by 1954, Walton was achieving $175,000 a year in sales.

In 1962, the first Walmart store opened. Now, Walton really showed his true colors – and they were red, white, and blue. As a brand, Walmart was committed to supporting American industry. The retailer stocked American-made products, and its founder went to great lengths to source American manufacturers, buying in huge quantities to ensure domestic manufacturers could compete against foreign suppliers.

The strategy paid off. By 1977, Walton had 190 stores nationwide. All were located in small towns, less than a day’s drive to Wal-Mart’s regional warehouses. By buying in bulk and handling distribution in-house, the nascent Wal-Mart sustained massive growth, closing 1985 with 800 stores, and boasting over 6000 international locations by the end of 2015.

If Sam Walton hadn’t thought big, American unemployment might stand at 6% rather than five. That’s a huge economic impact, and it’s down to just one man. By growing his business from a regional to a national retailer, Walton had a positive impact on millions of Americans. His insistence on supporting U.S. manufacturing expanded that reach still further, creating yet more work and opportunities for the industries supporting the great American retailer. Go Sam!

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